The Lesson of the Food Shift

Last week’s reports richly illustrate a very important point about deer that’s very relevant right now: A mature buck is a slave to his belly. Nowhere is this more evident than in Great Plains reporter Steve Hill’s excellent post reporting on the abundance of “ice cream” foods available to deer right now. Soft mast (wild plum, apple) and hard mast (white oak acorns) can lure bucks away from traditional summer food sources (alfalfa and soybean fields) and make those bucks tougher to find and pattern. Steve’s post reminds us that a hunter willing to discover these sometimes-discreet food sources can stay on bucks that seems to disappear after summer food sources dwindle.

Reporters Brantley (South Central) and Bruce (South) drive this point home with a pair of great posts regarding early-season food sources in their respective regions. Brantley noted the attraction of forbs that pop up in “scrub fields“ in the aftermath of a fall rain, and Bruce pointed out that soft mast (muscadine and persimmon) can attract bucks in a big way…as well as pull them off seemingly-easier destination fields planted by farmers. Savvy hunters will recognize such local food hotspots in their respective regions and know exactly where to look when summer-pattern bucks seem to disappear.

Naturally, keeping up with shifting territory and food sources be a difficult task. Northeast reporter Mike Bleech uses an effective mix of hanging trail cams and driving specified routes to keep tabs on deer locations and size. Mike is a master at moving trail cams to sites where cover and habitat has changed, and reminds us that its important to not hunt memories. Forests age, food sources change, and cover improves or digresses. If we hunt the same “good spots” over and over, we often find the deer aren’t as fond of them as we are!

South Central reporter Ray revealed an excellent method for hunting early season bucks: He uses trail cams (and sightings, if possible) to reveal an active, mature animal. Then he hunts that buck aggressively. Many hunters are afraid to chase an early season buck. Big mistake, according to Brandon, who correctly assumes he has a narrow window of opportunity to exploit. If he’s unsuccessful at shooting the buck, he may get another opportunity later, during the rut. An excellent approach, and one that’s proven successful for me as well!